Successful warfare requires moving troops quickly, and, in full conquering mode, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) envisioned a bridge to provide easy access for dispatching soldiers toward Spain. While the design of the Pont de Pierre, or masonry bridge, was completed before his first fall in 1814, the construction was undertaken during the Bourbon Restoration period of the French monarchy.
Swift currents and high tidal swings complicated the building process. The French borrowed a British diving bell to assist with the installation of the massive stone footings in the river bed to support the 17 brick arches. It would be another 140 years before engineers attempted adding a second bridge linking the two banks of the Garonne River in Bordeaux.
To my English-attuned ears, the name of the street sounds somewhat silly, but I believe the “Ha” came from a 1600s temple nearby that belonged to an order of nuns. The narrow street barely runs three blocks and was about that distance from the apartment we rented in Bordeaux. We were on the prowl and hungry, and I laughed that the reason we settled into the last table available on the sidewalk of Orta was the sign on the corner seemingly forbidding any kind of safe exit from Rue du Ha.
Above, Cathedrale-Primatiale Saint-Andre de Bordeaux
It seems as though almost a dozen streets lead directly to the grand plaza surrounding Saint Andre Cathedral, and all are rewarded with stunning views of its portals, the spires topping its bell towers or the adjacent Pey-Berland Tower. Now well disguised by later French Gothic transformations, the original Romanesque church dates to around the year 1000.
This church was the site of the wedding of 13-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) and the man who not long after their nuptials became king of France, King Louis VII (1120-1180) – making her queen. That marriage wasn’t a happy-ever-after story, and its failure led her to wed a much younger man, Henry of Anjou (1152-1189), who also would make her a queen, but of England. Will not distract you from the cathedral with the fascinating history of how her marriage to Henry II made the Aquitaine region of France part of England for three centuries.